Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – January 2019

By , March 15, 2019 12:15 PM

The latest report on unemployment rates in metropolitan areas includes partially revised estimates.  Data were revised back to 2014, but the full set of revised figures will not be available until April 19th.  Meanwhile, the figure below illustrates the effect of the revisions on estimates of unemployment rates for December 2018.  Rates were unchanged for Fayetteville, Little Rock, Memphis and Texarkana, while other metro areas saw slight downward revisions.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Preliminary data for January show that rates were generally little changed from the previous year, with the exception of Pine Bluff and Texarkana which both saw increases of 0.7 percentage points over the course of 2018.  Relative rankings of unemployment rates among metro areas has been holding steady with Fayetteville, Jonesboro and Little Rock registering rates below the statewide average and with Pine Bluff and Texarkana significantly above the statewide average.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Employment
Data on nonfarm payroll employment for metro areas was also revised this week, with some of the revisions substantial.  As detailed in the table and figure below, employment levels were revised downward for the fastest-growing metro areas in the state:  Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Little Rock, and Memphis.  Employment in Texarkana was also adjusted lower.  In each of these cases employment growth over the past two years was also revised downward.  Meanwhile the levels and growth rates of employment were revised higher for Fort Smith, Hot Springs and Pine Bluff.  For Pine Bluff, the revisions changed the two year growth from negative to positive.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

New data for January 2019 showed mixed changes for the month-to-month data, with employment declines in Fayetteville, Little Rock and Pine Bluff.  Employment was higher in Fort Smith, Memphis and Texarkana.  Incorporating the new revisions, all of Arkansas’ metro areas except for Fort Smith show positive employment growth over the most recent twelve months.  Given the substantial revision to data for 2018, Hot Springs now joins the ranks of metro areas that have higher employment today than before the onset of the “Great Recession” in 2008.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – January 2019

By , March 11, 2019 4:31 PM

The latest update on state-level employment came out this morning, including the annual benchmark revisions to the payroll employment statistics.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics had recently revised and updated the data derived from the household survey – including unemployment rates (reported here).  Today’s report showed the Arkansas unemployment rate in January 2019 was unchanged from the (revised) 3.7% level of December 2018.  The number of employed was up by 1,334 and the number of unemployed was up by 820, for a total increase in the labor force of 2,154.  The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 57.8%.

Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment increased by 1,800 jobs in January (seasonally adjusted).  The largest contributors to the increase were Construction (+1,200) and Professional & Business Services (+1,400).  Prominent declines were recorded in Manufacturing (-600), Retail Trade (-400), and Leisure & Hospitality Services (-700).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Compared to a year earlier, employment was up 12,600 jobs (approximately 1.0%).  Despite a one-month setback, employment in Manufacturing continues to show strong year-over-year growth (+3,300).  Other sectors that have continued to add jobs over the past 12 months include Education and Health services (+1,500) and Leisure & Hospitality Services (+1,900).   Professional & Business Services had been trending higher in recent months, but today’s data revision scaled back growth in that sector to show little net change over the past year.

Benchmark Revisions
Today’s revisions to Nonfarm Payroll Employment were more substantial than usual.  The benchmark revisions use data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages to provide more accurate job counts.  Typically these revisions affect the data for the most recent 21 months.  The recalculation of seasonal adjustment factors usually results in small changes to the reported data as far back as five years.  This year’s revisions also included updates to the business “birth/death modeling” which provides estimates of employment changes associated with old firms going out of business and new firms starting up.  As a result of these changes, data were revised back–in some cases–all the way back to the start of the time series in 1976.

The figure below shows the revisions for total nonfarm payroll employment.  Although the levels of employment were revised back several years, most of the impact on employment growth are embodied in the revisions for the past two years.  From December 2016 through December 2018, previously published data showed job growth of 23,200 (1.9%).  The revised data now indicate job growth of 30,900 (2.5%).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

The table below summarizes the impact of the revisions on the level of employment by sector as of December 2018, along with the previously-published and revised growth rates for the period December 2016-December 2018.  Substantial upward revisions to the level of employment affected Transportation and Utilities, Financial Services, and Other Services.  Revisions to recent growth trends were reported for several series.  For example, Other Services were previously reported to have had zero growth over the past two years while the revised data show growth of 11.5%.  On the other hand, Professional and Business Services had been reported at 4.7% growth over the past two years, while the revised growth figure is only 0.4%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

The revised data bring the trend rate of Arkansas employment growth closer to the national average.  For the five-year period from December 2013 through December 2018, previously published data indicated an average annual growth rate of 1.36%.  The new data show a growth rate of 1.54%.  Total nonfarm payroll employment for the U.S. expanded at an annual rate of 1.8% over the same period.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

# # #

 *Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, can be found here:  Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Annual State Unemployment Revisions – 2018

By , February 28, 2019 1:16 PM

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released revised state unemployment data for 2018, along with annual estimates for household employment and unemployment.  The annual average unemployment rate for Arkansas was 3.7% in 2018, unchanged from the previous year.

Revisions to monthly estimates of household employment and unemployment were not substantial, but present a somewhat modified view of recent trends.  As shown in the figure below, the revised path for the unemployment rate is slightly higher than originally estimated in late 2017, and slightly higher than originally published for late 2018.  The revised data show the unemployment rate ending the year at 3.7% rather than the originally-published estimate of 3.6%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Revisions to the underlying data on the number of employed and unemployed had the effect of smoothing out some of the ups-and-downs in recently reported data.  The number of unemployed Arkansans was originally reported to have edged higher in early 2018, fallen over the summer months, then increased once again toward the end of the year.  The newly revised data shows a more gradual and steady decline.  Similarly, the number of employed is now estimated to have grown more slowly during 2016 and 2017 than originally reported, but the gradual decline reported during 2018 is no longer a feature of the data either.  Changes in the data on the total labor force primarily reflect the revisions to the employment estimates.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

The annual revision of Local Area Unemployment Statistics serves as a reminder that we should never put too much emphasis on short-term fluctuations in the data.  For example, from October 2017 through June 2018, the originally published data indicated nine consecutive declines in employment.  After the data revision, the only monthly decline during that entire period was a small down-tick in May 2018.  Monthly employment changes in August and September of 2018 were originally reported as declines, but now register as relatively large increases.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Overall, the revised picture of household employment and unemployment in Arkansas indicates a labor market with an unemployment rate that remains low and relatively stable, with employment growth slowing over time as the capacity for employment expansion is constrained by labor force growth.

Arkansas GDP – 2018:Q3

By , February 26, 2019 2:16 PM

State-level GDP data, released this morning by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, showed Arkansas’ growth rate was 1.9% (annual rate) in the third quarter of 2018.  GDP was unchanged or higher in all 50 states, with growth rates ranging from 5.8% in Washington to 0.0% in West Virginia.  The national average growth rate for the quarter was 3.4%.  Arkansas’ 1.9% growth rate ranked 46th among the 50 states.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The third quarter expansion marks the fourth consecutive quarter of positive GDP growth in Arkansas.  Consequently, Arkansas growth rate on a year-over-year basis has accelerated to 2.8%, just shy of the national average growth rate of 3.0%.  Based on four-quarter growth rates, Arkansas ranked #16 among the 50 states.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The breakdown of growth by sector for the third quarter shows that Arkansas’ growth followed similar patterns to the nationwide trends.  The largest positive contributions to growth came from Wholesale Trade, Retail Trade, and Finance & Insurance.  Arkansas also saw significant positive contributions from Management of companies and enterprises and Administrative and waste management services.  Sectors subtracting from growth included Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; as well as Mining and Utilities.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

The next release for state GDP growth, covering the fourth quarter of 2018 and annual averages of the year, is scheduled for May 1.

Arkansas Taxable Sales – 2018:Q4

By , February 25, 2019 1:05 PM

Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) increased 1.8% in the fourth quarter of 2018 and was 1.0% higher than the same quarter a year earlier.  The growth rate of ATS in 2018 represents a slowdown from the previous trend rate:  From 2014 through 2017, ATS expanded at a 3.1% annual rate.

Over the entire calendar-year 2018, ATS totaled $59.848 billion, up 2.5% from 2017.

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

Sources: Department of Finance and Administration, Oil Price Information Service, Arkansas Economic Development Institute.

Gasoline prices were trending downward during the fourth quarter.  The average price of gasoline was $2.31, down from $2.59 in the third quarter.  As a result, consumer expenditures on gasoline are estimated to have fallen by 12.0% in 2018:Q4.  Incorporating this spending category, Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) increased by only 1.4% in the fourth quarter.  Total spending, including gasoline, was 1.1% higher than in the fourth quarter of 2017.

# # #

Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) is calculated by the Arkansas Economic Development Institute to serve as a timely proxy for Arkansas retail sales. The series is derived from sales and use tax data, adjusting for the relative timing of tax collections and underlying sales, changes in tax laws, and seasonal patterns in the data.  Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) incorporates data on the state motor fuel tax and gasoline prices from the Oil Price Information Service. A spreadsheet of the monthly and quarterly data is available here: Arkansas Taxable Sales 2018:Q4 (Excel file).

Metro Area Employment & Unemployment – December 2018

By , January 30, 2019 4:25 PM

The final metro area employment report for 2018 came out this morning.  In December, unemployment rates among Arkansas metro areas showed a mix of changes.  From November to December, seasonally adjusted data showed unemployment rate declines on four metro areas (Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Memphis and Pine Bluff).  Fort Smith, Little Rock and Texarkana saw upticks in unemployment, while the rate was unchanged in Northwest Arkansas.  Compared to a year earlier, not-seasonally adjusted data indicate that rates are unchanged to up slightly, with the exception being Fort Smith’s 0.5% decline.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The figure below illustrates the recent paths of metro unemployment rates.  Across the state, unemployment rates showed declines during the late spring and summer, reversing those changes during the latter months of the year.  (Memphis is an exception, showing nearly the reverse pattern.)  This short term fluctuations are typically smoothed out when the data go through the annual revision process.  We’ll find out the results of those revisions on February 28.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payrolls showed employment declines for most of Arkansas’ metro areas in December.  Little Rock was the only metro to experience a month-to-month employment increase, with Fayetteville and Pine Bluff essentially unchanged.  Compared to December 2017, employment was up in all metro areas except for Pine Bluff (-0.9%).  The largest year-over-year increases were for Jonesboro (2.4%) and Fayetteville (2.3%).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Employment growth in 2018 was generally consistent with the trends that have prevailed in recent years.  Fayetteville and Jonesboro are clearly the fastest-growing metro areas in the state, with Little Rock and Memphis growing at a somewhat slower pace.  Since February 2010, when employment reached a low point both statewide and nationally, total employment has changed very little in Fort Smith, Texarkana and Hot Springs.  Pine Bluff has experienced a cumulative 12.6% decline over that time.  Compared to the pre-recession employment peak (December 2007), employment has still not fully recovered in Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Pine Bluff and Texarkana.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

The payroll data will also be revised before we get another current reading on the metro area employment situation.  The annual “benchmark” revisions can sometimes be substantial, especially for metro areas.  The revised data will not be available until mid-March.  We will revisit the metro area employment statistics for 2018 after those revisions are released.

 

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – December 2018

By , January 18, 2019 12:37 PM

The Arkansas unemployment rate held steady in December at 3.6% after having registered a 0.1% uptick in November.  The national unemployment rate rose from 3.7% to 3.9% in December.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

For the third consecutive month, the underlying components of the unemployment rate showed an increase in both the number of employed and the number of unemployed, implying an expanding labor force.  For the period September through December, the household survey shows an employment increase of 2,843 and an unemployment increase of 1,881.  Consequently, the labor force participation rate increased in December from 57.4% to 57.5%.  As is often the case, this increase in labor force participation is mathematically associated with a higher unemployment rate (manifested in the November uptick), but is not an unambiguously negative development.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Payroll Survey
Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 1,800 in December (seasonally adjusted), and the figure for November was also revised upward by 200 jobs compared to last month’s report.  As a result, Arkansas payroll employment ended the year with 17,100 more jobs than at the end of 2017 — a growth rate of 1.4%.  Over the same period, U.S. employment growth expanded by 1.8%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Throughout much of the current economic expansion, job growth has been almost entirely concentrated in service-providing sectors.  In recent months, however, goods-producing sectors have been making a comeback.  Manufacturing ended the year with an increase of 3,800 jobs (+2.4%), with gains in both durable and nondurable-goods manufacturing.  With the construction sector also adding 1,900 jobs, good-producing sectors accounted for over 5% of the state’s job growth in 2018.  In December alone, good producing sectors accounted for over 90% of total employment growth, with service-providing sectors adding only 100 net new jobs for the month.  Job losses were reported for Transportation & Utilities, Financial Services, and Leisure & Hospitality Services.  Professional & Business services continued to expand, with employment up 500 for the month and up 4,800 since December 2007.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Today’s report is the last monthly update before the annual revisions to the data are announced.  Updated estimates of household employment and the unemployment rate will be released on February 28, and the “benchmark revision” to payroll employment will be unveiled on March 11.

# # #

 *Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, can be found here:  Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Metro Area Employment and Unemployment – October 2018

By , November 29, 2018 3:50 PM

Indications of a slightly weaker labor market statewide were also reflected in metro area employment statistics for October.  According to this morning’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 95 of 388 metro areas registered unemployment rates higher than a year ago.  In Arkansas, six of eight metro areas were in that group.  Seasonally adjusted data showed monthly increases in unemployment rates for six Arkansas metros as well.  Underlying the changes in unemployment rates, the number of unemployed individuals increased in all eight Arkansas metro areas.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Unemployment rates remain at historic low levels, particularly in the Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Little Rock.  In other areas of the state, unemployment remains elevated.  In both Pine Bluff and Texarkana, rates have crept back above 5%.    As shown in the figure below, however, recent increases in unemployment rates generally reflect reversals of the declines we saw earlier in the year.  These types of transitory fluctuation are often smoothed away when the data are revised, so we might expect to see metro unemployment rates appear more stable after the January 2019 revisions are completed.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates

Payroll Employment
Changes in nonfarm payroll employment were mixed across Arkansas metro areas.  Statewide employment declined slightly in October, but the job losses appeared to be concentrated in three metro areas:  Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana.  Payrolls continued to grow in both the Northeast and Northwest regions of the state.  Over the past 12 months, employment has increased in all of Arkansas’ metro areas except Pine Bluff, where employment declines continue to accumulate.  Growth in Northwest Arkansas appears to have slowed somewhat, with percentage increases in Jonesboro, Memphis and Little Rock exceeding the growth rate in the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metro area.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

 

Arkansas Employment and Unemployment – October 2018

By , November 16, 2018 11:43 AM

There is little to cheer about in the latest report on Arkansas employment and unemployment.  The headline sounds fine: the state’s unemployment rate remained at the low level of 3.5% — slightly lower than the national unemployment rate of 3.7% (though the difference is not statistically significant).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

However, changes in the statistics underlying the latest reading on the unemployment rate were not unambiguously positive.  Household employment ticked up a bit (+670) but is still down more than 8,000 from a year ago.  The number of unemployed had been declining for five consecutive months but increased slightly in October (+211).  As a result of these increases, the labor force expanded by 881, but is down 11,000 from a year ago.  The state’s labor force participation rate was unchanged at 55.4%, down 0.9% from October 2017.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Payroll Employment
Nonfarm payroll employment declined by 1,200 in October, and the September employment figure was revised down by 200.  Compared to October 2017, Arkansas employment up 8,400, about 0.7%.  Over the same 12 months, U.S. employment has increased 1.7%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The October decline in payrolls corresponded to job-losses in Retail Trade, Financial Services, Other Services, Mining & Logging, and Manufacturing.  Gains in other sectors were generally small, and the high-growth sector of Professional & Business Services stalled in October.  Although total job growth over the past 12 months has slowed, year-over-year gains in goods-producing sectors remain encouraging and growth in Professional & Business Services and Education & Health services continue to drive overall employment higher.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics (CES)

Although the granules of good news in the October employment report are rare, we always caution that a single month of data should not be overemphasized.  Unemployment remains low and payroll employment continues to rise (albeit at a slowing pace).  There’s no reason to expect those fundamentals to change.  We will continue to monitor monthly changes, with particular interest on how the annual data revisions due in early 2019 will affect our view of recent labor market developments in Arkansas.

# # #

 *Seasonally adjusted data for Arkansas nonfarm payroll employment, reported in a format compatible with the monthly news release from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, can be found here:  Table-Seasonally Adjusted NFPE.

Arkansas GDP – 2018:Q2

By , November 14, 2018 2:29 PM

The Bureau of Economic Analysis announced this morning that the recent acceleration in national GDP growth was reflected second quarter statistics for the 50 states:  Growth rates ranged from 2.5% in Delaware to 6.0% in Texas.  Arkansas’ growth rate was 4.4% — the tenth-highest growth rate in the nation.  As part of a comprehensive revision of the state GDP data (more below), Arkansas first quarter growth rate was also revised up from 0.0% to 2.0%.  From 2017:Q2 to 2018:Q2, Arkansas GDP growth has been 1.7%, compared to 2.9% for the U.S.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Agriculture was by far the largest contributor to Arkansas’ GDP growth, accounting for 1.27 percentage points of the state’s 4.4% growth rate.  Other sectors adding significantly to growth included Real estate, Information and Utilities.  Durable goods manufacturing was also a notable area of strength for both Arkansas and the U.S.  The only negative contributors to Arkansas growth were Finance and insurance, Retail trade and Nondurable goods manufacturing.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Comprehensive Data Revisions:
This morning’s data release incorporated the results of the BEA’s comprehensive update of GDP by state, incorporation more complete and detailed source data than was previously available.  The base year for price adjustment was also changed from 2009 to 2012.  For Arkansas, the revisions had the effect of lowering the level of GDP estimates for much of the past decade.  The revised data show a somewhat sharper downturn during the “Great Recession” of 2008-09, and also show sharply slower growth over the period 2013 through 2017.  From 2013:Q1 through 2017:Q4 the revised data show a growth rate of 0.5% compared to 1.0% in the previously published data (annual rates).

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis.  Note - Previously published data have been converted from a 2009 base year to 2012.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis. Note – Previously published data have been converted from the 2009 base year to the new benchmark of 2012.

For more recent periods, the data revisions mark something of an improvement.  Quarterly growth rates for Arkansas were revised up from 0.0% to 2.0% for the first quarter of 2018, and up from 2.5% to 2.7% for the fourth quarter of 2017.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Although the newly-revised data give cause for reassessing the strength of Arkansas’ economic expansion over the past several years, the latest readings provide reason to be optimistic that the recent pick-up in GDP growth nationwide is also being enjoyed here in Arkansas.

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